Spices in Israel are what people first think of when they thing of Israeli food. They bring unique flavors throughout the cuisine and spices in Israel are one of the most popular things to buy to take home a taste of Israel after a Christian Holy Land Tour. If you go to a market place, you will likely see a stand or perhaps a few that specialize in these spices.
So what are these spices and what are they good for?
Za’atar is one of the most popular spices in Israel. Think of it kind of as the seasoned salt of the middle east. You can put it on bread, on veggies or on meat. Za’atar’s exact mixture and taste can be dependent on the region of the middle east you are in, but it is in general a mixture of hyssop, sumac, sesame seeds and salt.
Hyssop is a main ingredient of Za’atar but it is also a well documented ancient herb that is noted in the Bible and holds an important place in the bible. Hyssop, a member of the mint family, has a beautiful purple flower. It has been used for its medicinal properties throughout history, In the Bible, it is mentioned multiple times, generally in relation to its cleansing in relation to the soul.
Hyssop was used to put the lamb’s blood over the thresholds in Egypt (Exodus 12:22). It was then used to consecrate the tabernacle in the wilderness (Hebrews 9:19). It also cleansed the tabernacle after leprosy was present in the tabernacle.
When King David sinned with Bathsheba, he referenced asking for his soul to be cleansed with hyssop when repenting.
The really interesting history of hyssop involves Jesus on the cross. When he says he’s thirsty, they offered him vinegar on a branch of hyssop. Some theorize that after he took on the punishment for sins of the world, this hyssop was symbolic of him still being clean of sin.
Of all the spices in Israel, hyssop is probably the most meaningful!
Sumac is a very interesting herb, as it has a citrus flavor to it. While some spices in Israel come from flowers, this spice comes from trees. This spice is often used in salads and kabobs and is yet another ingredient in the za’atar spice combination.
Revelation 18:13 speaks of cardamon. In the ancient days, it was used a breath freshener, a perfume, and digestive aid when made into tea. Today, it is a popular spice still and very popular in coffee throughout the middle east.
Cumin is mentioned in Isaiah and spoken of by Jesus as a spice of value when condemning the Pharisees.
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others.” -Matthew 23:23
Today cumin is used often in Israeli cooking, particularly in breads and pastries.
Mint is also spoken of in Matthew 23:23 by Jesus in the same way as cumin and other spices in Israel. Mint is used in salads, drinks and other dishes in Israeli cooking today. Very refreshing after a day of exploring!
Jesus spoke of the mustard seed in the Sermon on the Mount. If you go in the spring, you will see it covering the hills of the Galilee, including in the spot where it is believed he gave the famous sermon. Mustard is a common ingredient used around the world, and in fact is the second most popular spice!
We look forward to welcoming you to the land of Israel and enjoying the spices and flavors of the land and culture. Please contact us today for your risk-free proposal and booking and make your dreams of visiting the holy land come to life!